Margo shares her story of having a missed miscarriage, after becoming pregnant with IVF.
We sat there shell-shocked, just minutes earlier we were wondering about our baby’s gender, secretly smug that our first IVF had worked... I was 8 weeks into the pregnancy, with such strong symptoms, I couldn't believe my body would play such a cruel trick on me.
“It’s not at all what I would expect to see, I am so sorry, so, so sorry” – the voice of the ultrasound technician at the private fertility clinic filled the room like a bell after the dreaded pause. She passed me some tissues and left us alone for a few minutes. We sat there shell-shocked, just minutes earlier we were wondering about our baby’s gender, secretly smug that our first IVF had worked.
“You know you have another fresh cycle, get in touch when you are ready. I referred you to the Early Pregnancy Unit and they will call soon” she announced on her return. I sensed her awkward smile behind the mask. We walked out through the lobby of the clinic, everything in slow motion, passing couples at various stages of their fertility journeys on our way out. From the corner of my eye, I noticed a girl my age with a series of scan pictures, walking into the blood test with a cautious smile on her face. Unreserved joy is not for the likes of us, I thought, we would not be here otherwise. I also felt a pang of jealousy as her pregnancy seemed to be progressing as planned. I then felt instant shame that this was my natural response, rather than feeling happy for her.
We drove back home mostly in silence, with interludes of my positive attitude attempts. My mind was trying to make sense of it all. Although I was still pregnant, I would never hold that baby in my arms. I would have to walk up the river without daydreaming about my baby. I wouldn’t need to think about how to rearrange our apartment for when the baby came home. I would be able to drink wine again…
I was 8 weeks into the pregnancy, with such strong symptoms, I couldn’t believe my body would play such a cruel trick on me. For years struggling to get pregnant, whilst aware of the risk of miscarriage it was still distant and intangible, something that happens to other people. None of my friends had been through it and although happened to my mum 30 years ago, she never spoke much about it.
I drafted messages to friends and called my mum and sat staring at the tv for the remainder of the evening, consuming way too much chocolate. I was still pregnant, but my baby was dead, such a difficult premise to wrap your head around. I must deal with the rest tomorrow, I thought.
Morning, then afternoon came and I still hadn’t heard from the EPU. By this time, I’d researched various types of miscarriages and educated myself on the next steps. I’m glad I spent some time doing this and will always be grateful for materials found on the Miscarriage Association website. Their leaflets and stories submitted by other women gave me a reasonable benchmark of what emotions and physical consequences I could expect. No one else who gave me any guidance at this stage.
I wrote to my manager to advise that I wouldn’t be coming to work and decided that I would contact the EPU myself. They arranged for a scan in 5 days. What should I do in the meantime? “Come to terms with the situation and carefully watch your body, take paracetamol if you start bleeding and go to A&E if you use more than one pad an hour”.
My sister was coming that weekend and I was looking forward to the distraction. The previous year she’d come at the same time and we found out my uncle had passed away. This time it was my baby. The days of her visit passed uneventfully, with gentle walks, moments of reflection and occasional nervous scuffles between me and my partner.
I lived in a twilight zone. I could start bleeding at any given moment, so I wasn’t comfortable with going anywhere too far. I didn’t feel like I could have a proper drink at this stage either, as I felt like I could hurt the baby – clearly, I was not yet completely reconciled with the facts. Emotionally I was a mess. Everything was a trigger – my first shower since finding out, the first cup of tea, every mundane aspect of life turned into a vehicle for my grief. I looked at my partner and wondered what he was thinking, was he regretting getting together with me? Not only could I not conceive like most women, but I also couldn’t keep the pregnancy. I was heartbroken.
When I went to the EPU the sonographer advised that they could see the embryo but that I needed to wait another week so they could see more. What a strange week that was, still stuck in limbo yet desperately browsing internet forums hoping that maybe something was missed. I secretly fantasised that they would see the heartbeat next week, but, of course, they didn’t.
I pleaded to the nurses that I couldn’t wait any longer and pushed for surgical management. After all, my body was showing no signs of letting go – no bleeding, no cramps, no indication that I was no longer pregnant. I was lucky, surgical management was scheduled for a couple of days later.
I arrived at the gynae ward of our local hospital ready for the D&C. I was almost ten weeks. I woke up from the procedure to the unfortunate news that it had failed. My cervix was so tightly closed, the next step was medical management (misoprostol) to open it up and medically induce miscarriage. The nurse gently inserted four tablets into my vagina, and I was moved to another ward overnight. Luckily there was only one lady with a broken nose and the other beds were empty in the ward. I was unprepared for what came next.
After four hours I started having contractions every minute. My partner watched helplessly and held me close through every contraction, while I was crying with pain. The nurses allowed him to stay with me until after midnight when they gave me some morphine and I finally fell asleep, the strangest drugged sleep of my life. In the morning I was advised that the misoprostol hadn’t worked. I was then placed on a waiting list for more emergency surgical management. Still hungover from morphine and anaesthesia I kept falling asleep until late afternoon when I was wheeled into theatre again. Once in recovery, I found out that the procedure had worked and I could finally go home.
While writing my story and looking back over this ordeal, I’m sitting comfortably on my sofa, planning to go back to work next week after three weeks’ absence. I’m faced not only with grief that catches me off guard at least daily, but with piecing my life back together, including catching up on my workload. My physical recovery does mean I’m more able to take care of myself mentally.
I’m almost thirty-eight now and don’t have much time left. We will try again, slowly and with self-care. We are still hoping for a baby of our own.